Local youth from the Hudson Valley who have had it with marketing from the tobacco industry joined youth around the country to stand up and speak out against big tobacco on Kick Butts Day, March 19.
The Hudson Valley Tobacco Free Partners (SmokeFree Dutchess, POW’R Against Tobacco, TFAC of Ulster and Reality Check of Rockland and Putnam) along with CAPE of Dutchess, alerted the community about tobacco marketing in stores, a newly identified factor in promoting youth smoking according to activists.
Kick Butts Day was held Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at the Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall as part of a national effort to empower youth to stand up, speak out and raise awareness about the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing tactics.
The 2014 Surgeon General Report concludes that promotional activities by the tobacco companies cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.
In New York State, 107,000 high school students smoke cigarettes. Each year, 12,900 kids under 18 become new daily smokers. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report, if current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 who are alive today are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease. Every adult who dies early because of smoking is replaced by two new, young smokers, one of whom also will die early from smoking.
“Smoking kills and we’ve got to protect kids from the cause,” said Sophie Lester, age 13, Reality Check youth advocate. “Kids think smoking is okay since they see tobacco marketing every day in stores that we go to, but we want to change that.”
The tobacco industry spends 90 percent of their annual marketing budget in retail stores. Retailers in New York State display an average of 32 square feet of tobacco products or the equivalent of more than 200 cigarette pack faces. In New York State, 82 percent of retailers dedicate at least half of the space behind the checkout counter to openly visible tobacco products. Pharmacies and mass merchandisers averaged 50 and nearly 60 square feet of tobacco product display, respectively, equivalent to over 300 pack faces.
“Thirty-two square feet is like an indoor billboard,” said Alana Boutelli, Reality Check coordinator. “The tobacco industry can’t use billboards on a highway so why do we see their “billboard -like” marketing in our convenience stores and pharmacies?”
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids sponsors Kick Butts Day. There were more than 1,000 events in schools and communities across the United States and around the world.
“Our kids deserve to be protected from tobacco marketing,” said Denise Hogan, Rockland coordinator for POW’R Against Tobacco. “Since nearly all adults started smoking before the age of 18, parents and community members must be aware of the impact of all this tobacco marketing and take steps to protect our kids.”
For more information about the harmful effects of tobacco marketing at the point of sale, visit www.seenenoughtobacco.org.